Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Zealand plus 5 days

In the UK once more and, alas, back to work. Along my morning walk, just outside the office's rear gate, some hefty beast has laid the biggest pile of dung I've ever seen. I thought it was a dead dog at first sight. It's seriously hard to imagine any of the usual local wildlife leaving it. A lesser and more pretentious man than myself might draw some sort of metaphor out of this, but I'll just leave it there and the reader can make whatever connections they choose.

Dunedin did turn out all right in the end. It's NZ's big student city and has that pleasant, artsy vibe about it. We made the most of our last full day in NZ, driving out along the Otago peninsula in the morning and wandering around town in the afternoon. Otago has probably the most terrifying roads in the whole country - taking hairpin bends around mountains at a cautious 30 kph is one thing, but the peninsular coast road has about six inches of crumbling tarmac verge and a sheer drop into the water, and no barrier, and it expects you to take it like a Southern Man at 60 kph. You big pussycat. This seems to be just another sign of Dunedin's Scots heritage, along with the disdain of anyone who complains about the bracing weather.

That's the other thing about Dunedin, besides the students and the All Blacks - the Southern Man. NZ has this romanticised image of the frontier farmer that's basically the same as America's mythic image of the cowboy, but with sheep instead of steers. No one has done more to perpetuate this image than Speight's, Dunedin's own brewery and apparently NZ's most successful brand of beer. Speight's, incidentally, was founded by a tubby bearded PR man and his two tubby bearded brewing friends. See, it was us hairy fatties that won the West, ha ha. Well, the South in this case.

The holiday was rounded off with a rousing concert from Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen, then most of a day of driving back up to Christchurch and our flight home. I couldn't help noticing that, unlike the waterways of the North Island, all the South Island's rivers seemed to be running dry. (Again, a lesser and more pretentious man might read a metaphor into this...) The last thing we did in NZ, before handing back the campervan and heading for the airport, was to visit Mount Hutt, so we did at least get a close view of one of the South Island's mountains.

The Lovely Jo will be blogging about our holiday in much more detail. I'll just post a few links and leave it there.

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